When it comes to getting press, Radkey certainly can do some significant name-dropping.
There’s the band’s write-up in The New York Times after a stellar run of performances at Austin’s South By Southwest music festival in 2013. This led to praise from publications like Entertainment Weekly, USA Today and The Wall Street Journal. They were named a Best New Artist of the Month by SPIN, and the trio’s trippy claymation video for its new single, “Glore,” was declared one of the 10 Best Music Videos of 2015 by Rolling Stone.
But the Radke brothers — Dee (guitar, vocals), Isaiah (bass) and Solomon (drums) — would rather do a different kind of name-dropping when you talk to them. Middle brother Isaiah said they took a Led Zeppelin-style approach to “work hard on every single thing you do” when recording a full-length album. They want to be punk rock (a label frequently tacked on the band of brothers) the same way The Clash was — recording whatever type of rock music they wanted at whatever rhythm felt best. They wouldn’t mind being a “perfect band” like Weezer with its pop sensibilities, ability to crank out a heavy tune and penchant to switch up its sound.
While the band references some notable bands on the scale of rock luminaries, Radkey has always had a bigger overall ambition whenever it records or performs live.
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People are still freaked out that we are black people playing rock music,” he said. “It’s cool, especially if it inspires people to do whatever music they want to do.
Isaiah Radke, Radkey bassist
“There aren’t enough rock bands that are good,” Isaiah said. “There’s no fresh rock music out there, so we want to at least be part of rock bands coming back and putting on sweet rock shows.”
A love of rock music was the foundation for the siblings from St. Joseph, Mo. The three opted for home-schooling from their mother, Tamiko, and were inspired to form a band thanks to a steady diet of punk, alternative and classic rock courtesy of their father, Matt, who initially pulled double-duty as a Walmart full-time employee and band manager before quitting to manage his sons full-time. Isaiah said that home-schooling has been an asset during more frequent and prolonged time on the road.
“We’ve just been together all of our lives, and it just feels like a nice, normal thing,” he said. “I don’t know. It’s just always been super easy. We always kind of knew we would be able to do this.”
Of course, the journey Radkey took had its interesting setbacks and benefits. On one hand, they were teenagers when they first formed in 2011 (youngest brother Solomon wasn’t even driving age), meaning they couldn’t perform in many of St. Joseph’s 21-and-older venues. They found an outlet and a welcoming fan base in nearby Kansas City, which gravitated toward the band’s punk rock speed, catchy hooks, infectious energy, oddball lyrics and Dee’s singing and musical abilities — busting out impressive guitar solos with a vocal tone eerily reminiscent of Glenn Danzig (as one might guess, Misfits comparisons follow the band to this day).
The band’s following grew, and it released its first two EPs, 2012’s “Cat & Mouse” on actor Adrian Grenier’s (“Entourage”) Wreckroom Records, and 2013’s self-released “Devil Fruit.” Initially, local and later national and international press gravitated toward both their unique back story and the fact that they were three young black guys playing punk rock music. That is something that follows them to this day, but while Isaiah hopes the music eventually rises above the novelty, the band doesn’t see the attention as a bad thing.
“People are still freaked out that we are black people playing rock music,” he said. “It’s cool, especially if it inspires people to do whatever music they want to do.”
There’s a feeling you get from a rock show you don’t get from other shows. What happened to rocking out and that being the awesome thing you go out to see?
Isaiah Radke, Radkey bassist
As the band has continued to record and tour, one of the places that Radkey found its most die-hard fans was the United Kingdom. In 2015, it recorded its first full-length album “Dark Black Makeup” in Sheffield, England, with producer Ross Orton (Arctic Monkeys) at the helm. This offering features Radkey sounding more polished, slowing things down while sonically spreading its wings and beefing up its sound. The group delves into sludgy stoner metal on songs like “Love Spills” and “Sank” and the poppy strut of “Hunger Pain” while still featuring a punkish rush on tracks like “Le Song” and “Song of Solomon.”
“It’s the size of the songs and the way they play out ... We felt like we achieved a much better sound than we thought we ever could,” Isaiah said. “I feel like they are more real songs with, like, everything you need in them.”
Radkey continues to tour in support of its latest release. The band is wrapping up a 10-date jaunt centered on the band’s recent appearance at this year’s Afropunk Festival in Brooklyn, N.Y. The band hadn’t played this festival in a few years, and Isaiah mentioned how cool it was watching their music start the day’s first circle mosh pit despite the borough’s sweltering summer heat.
As they come to Lexington to perform at The Green Lantern on Saturday, you get the sense that kind of reaction is what Radkey hopes to invoke every time it takes the stage and gladly takes up what it sees as a notable need in music.
“There’s a feeling you get from a rock show you don’t get from other shows,” Isaiah said. “What happened to rocking out and that being the awesome thing you go out to see? We want to have as many fans as possible that are into what we’re doing.”
Blake Hannon: firstname.lastname@example.org.